If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that that innovation and adaptability are crucial to a business surviving and thriving.
Watching many companies change what they do and how they do it to keep themselves in business, has been one of the more inspiring and reassuring themes emerging from this year to date. Having to adapt and innovate quickly is the key lesson for us all.
Innovation can also be part of longer-term business plans. Creating more efficient processes, or a new and improved product, can take some time to develop, years even. But, whatever the speed, innovation is vital for success. Consistently striving for continuous improvement in a company, industry or sector will always make things more efficient for the supplier and better for the end user.
So, what about our construction sector? We are frequently perceived as a ‘traditional’ industry, reluctant to change, less inclined to embrace new technology, and, behind other more progressive sectors when adopting new ways of working.
There is always an argument to justify doing things as they have always been done; a natural inclination to resist change and an understandable reliance on tried and tested measures and methods in an increasingly risk-averse world. Low profit margins or inflexibility on the part of investors or insurers to expose themselves by being brave and supporting alternative ideas.
At Daniel Connal Partnership we value innovation and the role it plays to continually improve what the construction sector has to offer in the following key areas:
The Property Technology sector is growing. There will be advances in augmented reality software for planning and monitoring projects embedded into project design, rather than government protocols and a softer-style handover programme.
Innovative and eco-friendly processes are making modular builds an increasingly mainstream and popular proposition, but the endless possibilities for this type of manufacturing will be consistently explored and exploited; not forever restricted to an 8ft by 20ft box.
3D printing is changing many industries around the world. Although still a novelty in construction, 3D printed buildings could become a trend. Currently most of these pioneering structures are made from concrete, but on-site soil and waste from local food production, bioplastic or carbon neutral hemp can be used as a build material. At the moment 3D printed buildings are small, but they hold huge potential because of advantages over traditional construction methods in terms of reduced build time, less material wastage and lower pollution levels. It can only be a matter of time before the technology develops sufficiently to make larger buildings a viable proposition. It may be that 3D printing’s more widespread application in construction lies in the production of 3D printed components as part of much larger complex with enhancements pushed alongside more sophisticated designs to accommodate this change.
Creativity and innovation go hand in hand. Whilst not everyone can be the next Zaha Hahid or Frank Gehry, many architects have an inherent desire to be creative in their work, if only this creatively were encouraged rather than stifled; innovative architects might look at adopting materials used in other industries or use conventional materials in unconventional ways to better effect.
Innovation provides exciting and iconic buildings. Not just our most loved landmarks (wouldn’t the world be a poorer place without the Sydney Opera House, or the Eiffel Tower?) but those highly energy efficient or a unique environment. Two great recent examples are the Co-op headquarters at Manchester’s One Angel Square, rated BREEAM Outstanding, or, Norwich’s prize-winning Goldsmith Street with ultra-low energy, affordable homes.
These innovative projects seem worlds away from what most of us see walking along the high street or residential neighbourhoods. For many developers, housebuilders and town planners, innovation in design appears to be lacking. Rather there seems to be a desire to consistently repeat what they see as a successful formula. Such regulated spaces don’t engage our attention or lift our spirits. What’s more, they don’t encourage and challenge professionals in the construction sector to innovate and improve what is proposed.
So, what is the solution?
Innovation can’t happen in a vacuum. As organisations we need to embed innovation into our culture, creating open forums to facilitate idea sharing that can grow and develop.
We need to recognise the importance of creativity as part of the project development process; encourage creativity in our project teams and give creative minds the opportunity, time and encouragement to grow their ideas.
We also need to focus innovation on new ideas to mitigate the impact of our industry on the planet, reducing carbon emissions and improving safety as drivers.
New technology, new ideas and new ways of doing things are what will move the construction sector forward – allowing us to survive and thrive. Innovation will improve the build environment for all.
If you are interested in innovation and wish to find out more about this concept in practice at Daniel Connal Partnership, take a look at our case study on Carrow House, Carrow Hill where a 3D tour was produced during the first Lockdown 2020 when site visits were not possible. Take a look at: https://www.danielconnal.co.uk/virtual-tour-aids-remote-working/